CNN’s Brian Stelter opened “Reliable Sources” on Sunday with a prolonged lecture on anti-Trump talking point du jour “authoritarianism,” which critics quickly mocked as a knockoff of the old CBS educational series “Sunrise Semester” and “left-wing conspiracy nonsense.”
Author and political satirist Tim Young ridiculed the segment, telling Fox News that “Stelter went into peak, tinfoil hat, scare-tactic mode with his segment on Trump being a dictator” during the liberal media program.
Stelter began by describing “Democratic backsliding,” which he noted was a term used in political science meaning the “state-led debilitation or elimination of the political institutions sustaining an existing democracy.” He then said another way to describe it was “creeping authoritarianism” and pointed out that a variety of liberal news outlets have tied the phrase to President Trump.
Stelter admitted that some of his examples were from opinion pieces before expressing his latest Trump-related concern.
“How can the nation’s news media make time and space to explain this? I mean, we live in this new-story-every-minute, info-saturated world, but this may be the biggest story of them all,” Stelter proclaimed. “So, what are the best ways to cover it?”
Stelter said one of the ways would be with a “list,” as CNN displayed a BuzzFeed-style headline on the screen that read, “10 ways to tell if your president is a dictator.” He cautioned that the author didn’t say Trump was an actual dictator, but was simply monitoring the situation and felt Trump showed several traits of a dictator.
“On his list are things like fearmongering, demonizing the opposition and using state power to reward corporate backers and punish opponents,” Stelter said, asking, “Does that sound familiar?”
The liberal CNN media critic then made his own list of recent stories coinciding with his theory, such as the president’s proposed budget potentially taking funding from NPR and Attorney General Bill Barr criticizing Trump’s use of Twitter.
“This. All of this is Democratic backsliding,” Stelter said, pausing for dramatic effect.
“It happens when the rule of law is eroded. It happens when a ‘tough-on-crime’ president wants his government to just be tough on the opposition’s crimes,” Stelter said before analyzing more tweets.
“He loves to say the real crimes are on the other side. Trump happily accuses his opponents of treason and other high crimes, suggesting awful penalties. This has become so normal that we barely blink an eye anymore,” Stelter said as the CNN screen displayed headlines from a variety of liberal outlets such as Vox.
“To Stelter and his Democrat friends, anything that doesn’t go along with their way of thinking must be labeled pure evil, a threat to democracy and somehow the end of the First Amendment,” Young said. “If Trump were a real dictator, instead of something dreamed up in their liberal fan fiction, he would have already silenced Stelter and his ilk, saving us all from this left-wing conspiracy nonsense that they hope to move the needle with.”
Young added, “Essentially, Stelter is saying that something must be a fact and a threat because, ‘Me and my liberal friends all say it.’”
Stelter also read from a book titled, “How Democracies Die,” and alleged that people across the globe were experiencing a “creeping sense of autocracy” too complicated to explain in a quick-hitting news story.
“We need new ways to explain what’s going on to the audience,” Stelter said to wrap up his six-minute monologue.
“Authoritarianism” was also used to describe Trump on MSNBC’s far-left “AM Joy” on Sunday, while presidential candidate Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., and actress-turned-advocate Alyssa Milano also have repeated the term in recent memory.
Media Research Center director of media analysis Tim Graham mocked CNN as “the Cable Olds Network” for using repetitive talking points.
“They just keep repeating the same old spin. Like ‘Reliable Sources’ host Brian Stelter's obsession with how Trump represents Creeping Authoritarianism... even if there are no journalists being dragged to prison camps,” Graham wrote, pointing to a 2016 segment in which Stelter used the same rhetoric.
“Within a month of Trump’s victory, Stelter was demanding that journalists use the A-word,” Graham wrote. “Perhaps Brian was inspired to do another ‘Sunrise Semester’ segment after seeing Elizabeth Warren echo his party line to Anderson Cooper last week.”
Graham said he felt plenty of people were guilty of things that the CNN host claimed would describe a dictator.
”Liberals ‘fearmonger’ (starting with climate change). Liberals definitely ‘demonize the opposition.’ (That's what Stelter is doing!) Liberals ‘use state power to reward corporate backers and punish opponents,’” Graham wrote. “In the end, this is all a repeated smear. It shouldn't pass the ‘independent fact-checker’ test. Criticizing the press -- even proposing a budget cut for public broadcasting -- isn't dictatorship. But Democrats used this panicky line to get more Democrats elected in 2018.”